Four Days after Record Japan Earthquake, Local Hokkaido Governments Send Aid

By Ben Mirin, CIR

March 15th, 2011

NANAE: Today, the Nanae Town Office began accepting financial donations for Japanese earthquake and tsunami relief.  The Office’s Welfare Section received donations from “Rhythm Friend” Sports Club (30,000 Yen), the Town Office’s General Affairs Section (12,081 Yen), and three private donors, for a total of 63,081 Yen on the first morning.*

Until today, residents in Nanae have been donating money through collection boxes at local convenience stores and through local post offices.

“I was able to send money through Nanae’s post office on Monday,” Nanae Town employee Nami Nishizawa said.  “As long as you address your envelope to a national organization like the Japanese Red Cross, it should go through okay.”

It is also possible to make donations with credit cards, though cash donations at local shops appear to be a more popular option among Nanae residents.

For those interested in making monetary donations, the Japanese Red Cross is a good bet.  All such donations collected at the Nanae Town Office are currently being sent there.

Nanae is also taking part in an all-Hokkaido human relief effort.  The prefectural government has just assembled a team of paramedics and firefighters from towns across the island that will travel to various locations on Honshu to help prevent further loss of life.  Representing Nanae are two firefighters and an ambulance loaded with supplies.  The team departed early this morning.

Several employees at the Nanae Town Office said that the Office keeps supplies of food and water on hand for natural disasters, but that this time, the Hokkaido government had reached its quota for material donations and could not accept these from the Town.

“The priority is saving lives,” explained Kiyokatsu Kumagai, Nanae Town’s head of the Disaster Prevention Sub-Section (General Affairs Section) and a former member of the Japanese Self-Defense Force.

“Requests for more supplies are forthcoming, but currently there aren’t enough people on hand to manage the influx of those goods.”

Kumagai-san cited the South Hyogo Prefecture earthquake (also called the Kobe earthquake) on January 17th, 1995, in his explanation:

“When the 1995 earthquake struck, citizens all over Japan turned up in droves to donate supplies, but this only added to the chaos.”

Kimihito Iwabuchi of Nanae Town’s Commerce, Industry, and Tourism Section explained his feelings on the issue:

“We all want to help through more than just financial donations, but it’s impossible. As a town office worker, I think I could help in other town offices that have been destroyed, but if I go I will only get in the way of professionals who are currently on the scene.”

Koji Teraya, the Head of Nanae’s International Relations Sub-Section (General Affairs) echoed Iwabuchi-san’s sentiments:

“At this terrible time, we should not lose our desire to help those in need, but we also have to be patient and wait for further instructions from the Hokkaido government.”

Some Hokkaido residents cannot wait.  A report from The Hokkaido Shinbun published yesterday that a husband and wife from Mori-cho, a town north of Nanae, had decided to pack their family van with water, food, and blankets, and make the 9-hour drive to Sendai where their daughter lives.

Given the current state of Japan’s infrastructure, their commute could take much longer.

“The scale of this disaster is beyond anything we could have imagined” Teraya-san said.  “It is imperative that we coordinate our efforts, and that we stay united in our desire to see Japan rehabilitated.”

My interviewees wanted me to make a special note that they are grateful for America’s demonstrated support in the recovery efforts currently underway.♦

Extra Links:

Donate to the Japanese Red Cross

Information about Japan’s relief efforts: The Fire and Disaster Management Agency

*Data obtained from the Welfare Section of the Nanae Town Government

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